Until the late 1970s, Marion, Ohio suffered from an extreme case of festival envy. Their smaller neighbour to the north, Bucyrus, Ohio had a wildly successful festival dedicated to bratwurst - the famous Bratwurst Festival.
Marion, twice the size of Bucyrus, had nothing.
Traditionally Marion has been a working-class community, home to manufacturers like Whirlpool and marketing companies like Kable Fulfillment Services of Ohio Inc, but a festival dedicated to a washing machine just didn't have a good ring to it and who wants to celebrate junk mail?
What did Marion have?
An automotive hose festival was out of the question and no one would come to celebrate steel smelting.
But there was a popcorn factory...
Wyandot Popcorn produces snacks that are sent all over the world. Could an ignoble little heat-puffed grain kernel drive a festival? Someone decided to find out, permits were granted, the press were notified, and in 1980, the Marion Popcorn Festival had its humble beginnings.
The Popcorn Festival differs from many other free events in that the festival planners try to secure recognizable celebrity entertainers each year for the junk-food munching crowds. Artists such as the Pointer Sisters, Gloria Estefan, Huey Lewis and the News, Melissa Manchester, and Clint Black have performed before crowds numbering in the thousands.
One East-West thoroughfare and four North-South streets are closed, and the streets fill with crowds visiting stands that sell everything from popcorn art and gourmet-flavoured popcorn to bratwurst1.
The obligatory queen, Miss Popcorn Festival, is selected from the current year's waif-like candidates, and a parade is marched through the streets.
When the last barker closes down, the last notes of music fade from the open-air dance halls, the last bags of cotton candy are sold, and the last stands are disassembled, the street-cleaning crews march down the deserted avenues and sweep away the accumulated drifts of detritus. The town awakens Monday morning and resumes its blue-collar routine.